How to Avoid an All-Nighter When They Ask for Your Resumé at Short Notice

You have a broad span of experience. You’ve been sending your resumé out diligently for weeks. You’ve tailored your resumé every time you’ve submitted it (or not). Today your agency presented you with a golden opportunity and asked for your resumé right away. You promised your resumé for “close of business”. Your close of business has just become 2 am tomorrow morning.

The golden opportunity requires you to tailor your resumé with sufficient pertinent details to match the job/contract requirements, so that you make the shortlist for an interview.

Are you ready to put a stop to the periodic frantic bursts of activity whenever someone indicates an interest in you? Tired of trying to re-remember exactly where and when you last used esoteric skill X with specialized tool Z?

Here are five steps you can take to avoid update panic and the all-nighter:

0. Define the types of work or position you most want to apply for
The criteria can include specific organization or type of organization, specific subject matter, specific role type / position level. WRITE THIS DOWN AND KEEP IT HANDY.
This step comes even before step 1. You must define your target customers, or you will never be able to demonstrate in your resumé that you are an obvious match for the job, and you will chase after any opportunity that seems remotely plausible.

1. Create a master resumé
In its crudest form, the master resumé is a long CV (the very opposite of a resumé!) that contains details of work experience, expertise and skills related to everything you’ve ever done or might want to do, written in reverse chronological order, most recent experience first

2. Create and save tailored versions of your resumé
As you create them, save the versions with a unique identifier. For example if you are applying for jobs that involve either editing, writing, or testing, you might start with three folders with those labels. The individual resumé versions might have names such as Ed-pwgsc-May2011, or Test-RIM-Nov2011.

Use names that will be memorable to you two years and more down the road.
Remember: when you submit a soft copy of your resumé, rename it in a way that is meaningful to your potential employer, e.g., JSmith-HW-Tester.)

3. Create an Excel file (or a database) of work experience statements
Map them to past roles, project types and organizations.

This step is optional, but can be extremely useful if you do a lot of contract work, for example, in project management for the federal government for which you typically need to fill out a requirements matrix (grid) to demonstrate skills or years of experience. When an opportunity arises, you pick the paragraphs you’re going to use to substantiate your experience from the Excel file or database.

4. Pre-create work experience statements
Use the employer’s language for the role or position to describe your experience. This step, like the zeroth step, is often ignored, because job seekers either don’t know how useful it is, or where to look.

As you look for work in a particular area, there are certain criteria that come up again and again. Save the job ads, and make a list of these criteria and how they’re described. Don’t neglect jobs that would be OK for you, if only they weren’t in Timbuktu or already staffed. Don’t overlook a group of jobs at the same company – what language is used to describe the work, and the company’s requirements?

For any federal government job or contract position, there is a related category and classification. Look up that category and classification to see how it is described in generic terms. Now go back to your resumé and look at your experience statements, and edit, add and rewrite as needed to reflect the language of your target employer. (Reminder: This does not mean parroting behavioural competency statements. Behavioural competencies are evaluated through interview – of you, or your references.)

If you follow steps 0-4 diligently, you will not need to spend hours tweaking your resumé because 80% of what you need will already be in there. As well, provided your specialty is in demand and you continue to apply with a tailored resumé whenever you are well qualified, you make the shrotlist for an interview. Once you’re in front of the employer, you’re more than halfway to your next job.

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